Looking Into the SMB Technology Crystal Ball for 2012 | casinorgannet.ga

Through the years, visionaries and dreamers alike have wondered what their future may hold. Some seek out fortune tellers, tarot card readers, and mediums to guide them on their path for future success. However, those methods won’t work for small or mid-sized business decision makers. When it comes to technology, it’s especially important for the SMB community to make the right choices. Unlike larger enterprises, SMB organizations are unable to spend significant amounts of time and money on a “proof of concept,” a practice that partially deploys a new system or series of technologies to just a small corner of the business. For an SMB with a limited budget, a proof of concept is not bottom-line friendly. Solutions need to be practical, easy to implement, and have an immediate impact on how the organization operates. This month’s article will focus on the best technology trends small and mid-sized businesses should consider for 2012.

When considering what to expect in the coming year, looking back to hot topics in 2011 can provide a lot of insight. Communications giant Verizon produces a yearly “top 10″ list of what they anticipate will be the most adopted notions, and their November 15, 2011 report aligns with another highly recognized annual assessment commissioned by industry watcher Gartner. While both identify similar trends from 2011, the prediction for 2012 is an influx in adoption. Trends topping the lists include cloud computing, mobile technologies, social media, reputation management, powerful Wi-Fi implementations, compliance management, and energy usage responsibility.

I remember sitting in the audience at the 2009 Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) when Steve Ballmer excitedly spoke about cloud computing. Sure, Microsoft was “all in” with the cloud, but what exactly did that mean for small and mid-sized business? A LOT of people were asking that same question, and when I sat back and thought about it, I realized that I had been using the cloud for nearly 15 years. Email services such as AOL, Hotmail, and Gmail are all perfect examples of cloud computing. Access to news, instant messaging, email, and other data is stored at remote data centers and accessed locally.

While those early iterations of cloud services were fairly rudimentary, the prospects on the horizon for 2012 offer a plethora of additional uses. When Microsoft went live with the Windows Azure platform, I wondered why a small organization would need access to vast computational resources. Then, at WPC 2010, a small airplane customizer told the story of how they lowered their turnaround time on interior designs from weeks to hours by leveraging the on-demand processing power from Windows Azure. While this is only an outlier in the cloud solution scenario, it’s not the only example of how the cloud is being used in small and mid-sized organizations.

SMB organizations are increasingly looking at services in the public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid of both to offset the costs of their core network. Requiring equipment like servers, firewalls, switches, routers, client end points, voice applications, and security can quickly deplete a small budget. The upside is that a cloud-based network infrastructure can provide a shelter from these large up-front investments. Doesn’t it make sense to segment some or the entire portion of your business network to an outside provider that lives and breathes technology every day? In doing so you free yourself and your staff to focus on expanding the organization, not to mention the side benefit of turning you capital expenses into monthly operating expenses. As always, consult with your tax or financial professional for complete details.

Cloud-based options for small and mid-sized businesses are emerging with low and in some cases no costs. Take a look at GoBook (http://gosuite.gramercyone.com) which provides a free scheduling and marketing suite for service-oriented enterprises like salons, repair shops, medical offices, health clubs, and more. Not only will GoBook integrate into the familiar Outlook interface, it also plugs into your social media endpoints like Facebook and Twitter. This is just one example of the growing list of options for the budget-conscious business.

As cloud computing continues to grow, it’s inevitable that mobility will grow, and the increase in handheld devices and tablets only solidify this point. The use of tablets illustrates a concept called consumerization where new technology first emerges in the consumer market and then later spreads to the business market. There are now several choices when it comes to tablet technology such as the Apple iPad, the Android-based Samsung Galaxy, and the BlackBerry PlayBook to name a few. The tablet market is constantly changing and new products are always right around the corner. It’s rumored that Microsoft is working on devices that will leveraging the upcoming Windows 8 operating system which introduces touch into the Windows GUI experience.

Additionally, employees are now expecting to be able to connect to their employer’s network with their own devices instead of carrying a second device. This means technology staff must now make networks accessible and secure for a multitude of devices. Since growth for these devices is expected to continue, this means more “apps” for specific business needs such as GoToMyPC for the iPad.

Social media is another area where both Gartner and Verizon expect to see continued growth. Small and mid-sized businesses are now embracing social media in new ways and centralizing marketing plans around outlets like Twitter and Facebook. LinkedIn continues to see growing adoption among the business networkers, job seekers, and hiring authorities. At this point, if your organization doesn’t have a social media strategy you had better find a way to develop one or risk being left behind.

Social media may well fuel the increase in reputation management which is a term used to describe the ever-growing trend of online feedback from your customers and clients. With the unfortunate fact that there will be those who will look to discredit your competency, it becomes critical to have a processes in place to address situations as they arise.

As wireless networks become more pervasive, you’ll need to re-examine your network security for potentially cracks. Don’t forget the connection for free wireless Internet access for visitors, customers, and vendors who expect to have a near-LAN speed experience. The growing adoption of the 802.11N standard helps bridge the gap, but of course the wireless client must be able to traverse the improved network with the same protocol or the experience won’t transcend.

Since compliance management is not universal, those who accept credit card information over their website must be vigilant as the penalties for failure could be crushing. According to the Verizon study, “In a difficult economic environment and with increasingly more stringent government regulations, the need for taking full advantage of business opportunities will increase interest in prudent, holistic security approaches. Companies and governments will change how they interact with their extended network of partners, increasingly choosing to do business with those that can demonstrate a comprehensive multiyear and standards-based approach to security.” (Verizon Communications Inc., 2011) In other words, be smart and be aware or the consequences could be devastating.

Finally, responsible energy use will not slow down in the next twelve months. As always, the management of power, data equipment, and facilities will take center stage, but the ability to consolidate with virtualization even in the smallest of data networks will help utilize equipment to its fullest potential. The decreases in expenses for power and cooling will help fund other areas of growth and change as they have for much of 2011.

There is a great deal of repetition in the outlook for 2012 as we’ve seen over the past year, but in this case it’s a concerted effort to fully adopt these technologies that will create opportunities for organizations to adapt, streamline, and even reinvent themselves. For as we head towards the quarter pole of the second decade of the 21st century, growing upwards is the right trajectory. The signs point to technological options that will help the SMB community make the necessary steps to get where they need to be, as well as adapt to the new paradigm. Those that ignore the signs on the horizon risk having the sun set on their entities.

Information Technology Forum For Entrepreneurs | casinorgannet.ga

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